FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE
by Tesh Njokanma 3/17/2014 / Christian Living
I can still vividly remember how some years back as I sat at a church service I wasn't following or enjoying, I found myself raising my hands when an altar call was made for those who wanted to receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. As I casually and half-heartedly repeated the sinners' prayer, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Little did I know that I was signing in for an adventure of a lifetime; an adventure you can't forget in a hurry, an adventure that would take me through some dark tunnels, high mountains, slippery cliffs, furious storms, vast deserts and boiling hot furnaces.
I've since found some similarity between the sinners' prayers pastors get those who are repenting of their sins and surrendering their lives to Christ to pray, and the wedding vows couples exchange on their wedding day. Basically, they are both about pleading your total allegiance to someone. You are committing yourself to remain devoted to this person, you are vowing to stick with this person no matter how bad things may get. But these words, whether from the lips of a new convert or from newlyweds, are easier said than done.
The major difference in these two solemn vows is that for marriage, the vows last only for the period both partners are alive. That's why the clause "till death do us part" is inserted in almost all wedding vows. When one partner dies, the other is free to remarry. But with the pledge of allegiance we make to Christ when we receive Him as Lord and Saviour, not even death is to put an end to our relationship with Christ, for He has called us to an eternal, unending union. No wonder Paul in Romans 8:38-39 stated that "for I am convinced that neither death nor lifenor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord".
Just like every marriage has its for better, for worse periods, our walk with God also has some 'for better, for worse' experiences. Sometimes, it's hard to relate the unending and undying love God declares He has for us in countless Bible passages with some of the 'for worse' or tough times He allows us go through.
Recently, I found myself in a 'flaming hot furnace'; a typical 'for worse' experience. Am not sure how I got there, I just know I found myself there. Maybe I missed my way, got distracted or sidetracked and ended up in a furnace. Or maybe I was getting too comfy and cozy and God had to use an unpleasant experience to jerk me up and get me out of that comfort zone. Whatever it was, I found myself in a furnace. At some point, the fire got so hot that I thought there would be nothing but ashes left of me. But guess what? I didn't get burnt. God was true to His word as He promised in Isaiah 43:2 that "when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze".
There are certain waters, rivers and fires we have to pass through. God didn't say if you pass through the waters, or if you pass through the fire. He said when. This means that we will definitely pass through some tough times; some 'for worse' situations.
Anyway back to my own 'for worse' or flaming fire experience. It was a time for me to reflect on the 'wedding vows' I made some years ago when I received Jesus into my life. Yes, they are wedding vows even though not made at a usual wedding ceremony. For this ceremony, Christ is the bridegroom and believers are the bride of Christ.
I had to ask myself over and over again, are you sure you want to remain in this 'marriage'? Are you sure you want to continue going through storms, valleys, desert and wilderness situations? For long as you are in a Holy Union with Christ, there is every likelihood that you will have to face some giants in the land, pass through fires and meet some mountains along the way. At a stage during my time of reflection, I started contemplating signing 'divorce papers', but then I was faced with the reality of the fact that even if I did, I would never ever get a better 'partner'. Really, who on earth can stay awake all through the night just gazing at me? Psalm 121:4 says, "He who watches over Israel (me), will neither slumber nor sleep". Or which partner can forgive, and I mean completely forgive and forget the worst of offences? Isaiah 1:18 says, "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool". Or who could possibly go to the extent of dying for me just to let me know how much he loves and cares for me? John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends". It's not just the dying for me that makes me know the love of this partner is so unique. When I think of the fact that He was pierced, beaten and terribly wounded for my own faults and weaknesses and took upon Himself the punishment I rightfully deserve, I know that I am dealing with no ordinary partner. His love is simply AWESOME! Isaiah 53:5 says, "he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him".
This kind of amazing love makes up for all the 'for worse' experiences that come our way. Besides, it's not like it's been all tears, pain and discomfort all the way. There have been many 'for better' experiences; many great and pleasant things He has done for me which I don't even deserve to be a recipient of.
So when it dawned on me that I have been blessed with a unique, loving, precious, kind, faithful, understanding, incomparable, unfathomable 'partner', I decided to renew my 'wedding vows'. Not in the casual, haphazard manner I did many years ago. This time with more thought and precision to what I was saying and doing. I solemnly went on declare, in spite of what I was facing presently, or what I would face tomorrow, to have and to hold Him from this day forward, for better, for worse (ouch!), for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till we meet in glory!
Tesh Njokanma is a lawyer by training whose heart is in writing. She is a prolific writer with over 15 years experience as a magazine Editor. She is a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God with a prayer and teaching ministry. Tesh is married with children. She is based in Lagos, Nigeria.